Sri Lanka

   The Dutch who held sway on Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) introduced the Reformed faith in 1642, but Dutch ministers made little effort to evangelize the largely Buddhist population. The British took over in 1796 and soon established colonial rule over the whole island.
   The British conquest of Sri Lanka coincided with developing interest in INDIA as a missionary target among Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists in England. Ceylon was a convenient stopping place on the way to Calcutta and India's east coast. At that time, the East India Company, which controlled India by royal charter, was hostile to missionary activity. Ceylon, on the other hand, was relatively open to missionaries.
   As the Anglican Church expanded, most Reformed Church members joined the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church. The London Missionary Society (Congregationalist) established work there in 1804, but as India opened it shifted personnel to the mainland and by 1818 had totally abandoned the island. The Church Missionary Society arrived in 1818.
   The Baptists entered in 1812, when James Chater was forced out of Burma by war. He published a Ceylonese grammar in 1815. The first British Methodists, unable to settle in india, settled in Ceylon in 1814. They founded what remains one of the largest Christian communities on the island.
   American Congregationalists arrived in 1816 with support from the new American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. They focused their work among the Tamil (Hindu) population in the northern part of Ceylon. Jaffna College, opened in 1823, was the first school to present Western-style education.
   A few additional churches, such as the Salvation Army, arrived later in the century. Today more than 50 denominations are at work in Ceylon, Pentecostalism leading the way through the efforts of the Assemblies of God and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
   The older Protestant churches are associated together in the National Christian Council of sri Lanka, affiliated with the World Council of Churches. Though the churches of the island have been active ecumenically, and produced a world-class leader in the person of D. T. Niles, they have not followed their indian colleagues in creating a united Church. The Congregationalists did become a part of the Church of south india (formed in 1947) and now exist as its Jaffna Diocese. Meanwhile, the World Evangelical Alliance established its regional affiliate, the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia, in Dehiwala, just south of Colombo, sri Lanka's capital, and has organized a local affiliate, the Evangelical Alliance of sri Lanka. The Protestant community in sri Lanka includes about 2.5 percent of the population, which remains overwhelmingly Buddhist.
   See also Asia; India.
   Further reading:
   ■ S. Douglas Franciscus, Faith of Our Fathers: History of the Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) (Colombo, sri Lanka: Pragna Publishers, 1983)
   ■ Donald Hoke, ed., The Church in Asia (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975)
   ■ J. T. small, A History of the Methodist Church in Ceylon, 1814-1964 (Colombo: Wesley Press, 1971)
   ■ G. P. v. somarantna, The Events of Christian History in Sri Lanka: A Chronology of Christianity in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka: Margava Fellowship of Sri Lanka, 1998)
   ■ ----, Origins of the Pentecostal Mission in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka: Margava Fellowship of Sri Lanka, 1996).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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